Inviting Community into the House of Pure Aloha
In May of 2010, Bronson Chang gave a Baccalaureate speech at his USC graduation about his decision to return to his native Hawaii and partner with his Uncle Clay in growing the House of Pure Aloha, a beloved community snack shop that emphasized connecting community through a shared spirit of Pure Aloha, a “lifestyle of being our best selves by loving unconditionally.” Indeed, Uncle Clay’s, as it previously existed, was a place in which unsuspecting customers found peace, love and inspiration, a place where everyone was treated as ohana, or family. Despite being in business for fourteen years, establishing itself as a iconic, beloved, local business, it struggled financially on modest revenue. Wanting to take Uncle Clay’s to the next level, Bronson seized the opportunity to build a new store, introduce new products, and keep their Pure Aloha dream and vision alive.
Following his speech, Bronson was overwhelmed with emails and phone calls from classmates wanting to know how they could help and contribute to the cause, and more specifically, how they could invest in Uncle Clay’s House of Pure Aloha. It was then that Bronson realized the answer to raising funds for their reimagined venture was not necessarily through bank loans or traditional investments, but rather, through friends and family fundraising. Bronson describes humility, one of the core values of “Living the Pure Aloha Way.” “This value is based upon recognizing our limited knowledge and capabilities as individuals and our deep interconnectedness to all things. From this, it is only natural to seek out others to achieve shared visions and dreams in a very meaningful way.” After all, Uncle Clay’s was already rich with community capital, community who were actively and excitedly interested in investing.
ProFounder and the House of Pure Aloha
Bronson was introduced to ProFounder quite fortuitously, just after his graduation speech, by a classmate and future investor. Using the tools and resources provided by ProFounder, Bronson successfully raised $54,000 from 19 friends, family, classmates, and loyal customers and offered them 2% of Uncle Clay’s revenues over 4 years in return for their investments as well as other bonuses like private tastings of new shaved ice flavors. These individuals had already been valued supporters of the business and offering this investment opportunity was a great way to say “thank you.”
On ProFounder, Bronson and Uncle Clay were able to create a concise, yet compelling pitch, which they could then send to their community as an invitation to invest in their business. Unlike traditional business plans or elevator pitches, the ProFounder pitch model is designed to tell the story of the business and present a great opportunity to potential investors. Bronson and Uncle Clay embraced the opportunity to include others in their story, and even provided a heartfelt and genuine video for invitees to watch. “I believe that we, as people, can better understand the world through story. Stories are moving and memorable because we can relate to them in a very human-to-human way. Real stories are honest, transparent, and personal.” Indeed, many who invested felt as though this story was one they could believe in. Classmate and investor Josh Wong explains why he decided to invest in the House of Pure Aloha. “You meet a lot of people in college who talk about their ideals and dreams for what the world could be, but it is rare to find someone who works every day to make that vision happen,” Josh says. “Their world is one that I would want to live in, and after tasting their fresh fruit syrups and reviewing their financials, it is truly a business that I think the community will want to rally behind and support.”
Why Friends and Family?
Bronson and Uncle Clay successfully reached their fundraising goal thanks to the support of friends, family, and of course customers. The first House of Pure Aloha store is now up and running, continuing to engage their community on a multitude of levels. Raising money from their community allowed these two entrepreneurs to share more than just financials and business plans; rather, they were able to tell a story, present an opportunity, and align their passion and values with their business goals. “In crafting the story, you better understand your own organization or business, from the whats to the whys,” Bronson explains. “You become that much more confident and assured you are doing the right thing. Now, every day, I’m able to live my dream of being a social entrepreneur. It’s so exciting and deeply meaningful, and I’m so thankful for the opportunity.”
This 'success story' is the first in a series of collaborations with ProFounder. For financial and investment details, the case study can be found on the ProFounder blog. ProFounder was created to ensure all entrepreneurs have access to the resources they need through the engagement of robust, supportive communities.
Rachel Tobias is a writer, blogger, and dreamer living in the Los Angeles area. She currently works at ProFounder.com, spreading the word about community-based crowdfunding for small business. In her spare time, she writes for the TED Blog, buys plane tickets to foreign lands, and makes a delicious pomegranate-basil sangria. She can be found at racheltobias.com.
Photography by Roland Lee.